There are so many different ways to garden that it would be hard to even list them all.
We put together this grouping of ten different intensive gardening methods that make the most out of your gardening space, so that you can grow the most food possible with the least amount of hassle.
Have you tried any of these methods? If so, leave a comment at the bottom and tell us about your results!
Do you appreciate the rugged appeal of recycled tires in your garden? Or, do you want a cheap (read: free), shapeable container garden? The steps are simple: carefully cut off the outer rim of a tire using a utility knife. Once you’ve formed that flexible “O,” you can maneuver the tire tread inside out if you prefer to have the smooth, slick innards visible.
By stacking treads on top of one another, the tires become excellent containers for growing potatoes and other rooted plants since the structure provides much-needed growth room. The black surface is ideal for plants that need warm growing conditions.
Used tires are easy to come by and can be molded into non-circular shapes. Simply lodge some wooden logs in the tire to create the desired shape. Check out these step-by-step instructions with photos: http://www.tiregarden.net/
The Mittlieder method creatively–and affordably–combines soil-based gardening with hydroponic gardening. This method takes advantage of space, time, and resources and works with both soil beds and raised beds. Apartment dwellers can enjoy this method as much as commercial farmers.
So how does this method differ from other gardening techniques? Plants must be fed 16 essential nutrients, as determined by Dr. Mittlieder himself. In addition, while the soil type isn’t a major factor in gardening, soil distribution is essential for proper irrigation, which he believes to be centralized watering, as opposed to drip irrigation. Plant spacing is also more liberal in the Mittlieder method. Finally, pruning vegetable plants is essential, yet often ignored in other gardening techniques.
For a quick-start guide, see this site: http://growfood.com/
Square foot gardening
The Square Foot Gardening method can be started using only a frame and some dividers. Picture a box divided into smaller squares, each measuring 1-foot by 1-foot. The square foot gardening method focuses on the number of seeds that can be planted within each square box based on the size of the plant. For example, one tomato plant might occupy its own square while oregano can be planted 4 times within a square. Carrot seeds, on the other hand, can be planted 16 to a square. Not sure how big your plant will be? Check the back of your seed packet for spacing information.
Want tips on ideal soil composition for your square foot garden? Visit: http://squarefootgardening.org/square-foot-gardening-method
Keyhole gardens provide adequate growing conditions in less-than-adequate environments. Keyhole gardens are named after their shape: they are typically round beds with a pie-slice-shaped aisle for easy access, all built around a circular center compost. These types of garden beds provide the best of several worlds: raised beds allow for regulated soil conditions, the compost center permits rich nutrients to re-enter the soil through recycling, and soil stays nourished via water poured into the compost pile, essentially drought-proofing your crops.
Keyhole gardens are easy to build and can be customized to your liking. Use decorative brick, old wood scraps, cinderblocks, netting, tree logs, or even thick plastic. The framing possibilities are endless and a little composting knowledge is needed. See our own more detailed description of how to make and maintain a keyhole garden.
Who says soil is necessary for gardening? Aquaponics is one of two soil-less gardening methods we highlight. This is an organic gardening system that uses fish waste to nourish plants. This doesn’t mean your plants are submerged, however. A variety of systems exist, including simple trays in which plants sit: their bottoms are hydrated and fertilized by the aquatic ecosystem. Kits are available for purchase and because you get to choose the type of fish involved, children are curious about aquaponic gardening.
Just like a normal fish tank, your aquaponics system will need monitoring and occasional testing, so don’t forget to include your gardener tot in these duties. For an overview of aquaponics and greater starter tips, head to Oregonlive.com.
Perhaps you’ve seen one in a window already: a vertical cascade of hanging vessels–typically halved soda/water bottles–home to soil-less leafy green plants and herbs. The method is simple enough. Plants grow out of the bottle while an air pump (such as those used in fish tanks) circulate liquid nutrients that gently flow down the structure. Sunlight is necessary, but for windows that don’t receive enough light, hanging LED lights will work.
It goes without saying that this method of gardening is ideal for residents with no patch of grass to claim as their own; the method is also dirtless. But first-floor residents beware: you are sure to get curious by-passers peering into your personal space, so consider a privacy curtain. Read about one woman’s window farm initiatives here.
Straw Bale Gardening
You don’t need to live on acres of land to utilize a straw bale garden. Even a small bale (discretely placed, if you prefer) will provide high yields and require little maintenance. Bales are great raised beds: straw collects/disburses moisture and is compostable, which means over time your plants will gain nutrients as the straw decomposes. Plus, the bales retain heat to extend your gardening season even further.
Here’s how it’s done. Before placing your bales, lay some fabric to inhibit weeds from sprouting up through your bale. Lay bales side-by-side if you have more than one, making sure the strings stretch across the sides, not the top. For two weeks, soak and fertilize the bales so they are ready for crops. Finally, plant your seedlings.
Modern Farmer gives more detailed instructions for creating straw bale gardens.
And for all things straw bale? Check out http://strawbalegardens.com/
This method should by no means be considered the lazy way. It’s the ingenious way! Soil bag gardening can be customized to the amount of space you have available. You can even start a soil-bag garden near a window that gets full sun. If you’re a beginner and just want to test your green thumb, go out and pick up one 40-pound bag of top soil.
Instead of spreading that soil in a raised bed or container, simply lay it flat. You’ll cut off the entire top of the packaging, exposing a window of pre-ready soil for your plants. You might think the next step is too easy: plant seedlings at the appropriate time (found on the back of the seed packets).
This method is more than just convenient. You’ll have practically no weeds and, if you choose to continue your gardening adventures, over time the bag will etch an automatic bed outline in your lawn.
For more information, Mother Earth News has a detailed article.
It’s as delicious as it sounds: a method of layered vegetable gardening that reduces your workload. Lasagna gardening actually offers a reprieve from mismanaged gardening. This method is ideal if you have let your gardens go wild or have just inherited an unkempt yard.
The lasagna gardening method actually encourages neglect…sort of. Instead of taking the time to clear out unharvested crops, resilient weeds, or dead plants, simply compact them and place a compostable buffer on top: cardboard boxes, newspapers, straw, manure, leaves, or grass will do. Not only will this eliminate unsightly terrain, but you’ll notice that plants you smooshed to smithereens will actually persevere over time. Top off your layered garden with additional seedlings to get an amalgamation of crops: no digging, tilling, or weeding required.
Ruth Stout no-work garden
The second unusual gardening method in our list to be named after a person: the Ruth Stout no-work garden. This method follows the same basis of the last two methods: less digging, soil preparation, weeding, and tilling. Ruth herself used just one fertilizer (cottonseed or soybean meal) and didn’t bother maintaining a compost pile.
Her trick? She kept a thick layer of vegetable mulch on her vegetable and flower gardens. Potential matter includes hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, weeds, garbage and even sawdust. As the mulch rots, soil is enriched and more mulch is added. Her one caveat is to start with an area that has at least an 8”-thick layer of mulch in order to prevent weeds.
Here, Ruth explains her method herself at Mother Earth News.
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